About This Artwork

Egyptian

Model of a River Boat, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 11-12, (about 2046–1794 B.C.)

Wood, pigment
63.5 x 114.3 x 17.1 cm (25 x 45 x 6 3/4 in.)

Gift of Henry H. Getty, Charles L. Hutchinson, Robert H. Fleming, and Norman W. Harris, 1894.241

In the Middle Kingdom, tomb paintings and statues were often supplemented with wooden models. This boat is fully equipped with a crew, oars, and a mast. It was thought that the model could provide the soul of the deceased not only with routine transportation, but also with the ability to make the pilgrimage to the sacred city of Abydos in southern Egypt, the cult center of the god Osiris.

—Permanent collection label


The Nile River provided Egypt’s main means of transportation as well as water for irrigation. This model of a boat would have been placed in a tomb to give the deceased the ability to trade and travel in the afterlife. The primary function of these models, however, was to enable the deceased to make a voyage to the sacred city of Abydos. Situated on the Nile, the city was a place of pilgrimage, where Osiris, god of the underworld, was believed to be buried.

— Exhibition label, When the Greeks Ruled: Egypt After Alexander the Great, October 31, 2013–July 27, 2014, Gallery 154.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 154A, 1994 – February 2012.

The Art Institute of Chicago, When the Greeks Ruled: Egypt After Alexander the Great, October 31, 2013 - July 27, 2014.

Publication History

Allen, Thomas George. A Handbook of the Egyptian Collection. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1923, p. 49 (ill.), 50.

"CLEOPATRA; THE ANCIENT WORLD," Computer program, 1997, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Alexander, Karen B. 2012. "From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago." in Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, by Karen Manchester, p.24, fig.8. Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press.




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